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What’s the Best Deck Stain to Use?

What’s the best deck stain? It sounds like a simple question, but the real answer is; “it depends”. It depends on what your trying to accomplish. Let’s narrow the questions down first. Are you looking for the longest lasting deck stain, the easiest deck stain to apply, the most Eco-friendly deck stain, the easiest stain to maintain, the most affordable deck stain, the best oil based deck stain, the best water based deck stain? Do you see what I mean? We’ll cover each of those questions in further detail, but let’s start off by talking about the most important things you need to know what it comes to finding the best deck stain.

1. More expensive doesn’t always mean better

Sometimes in life, you get what you pay for. Other times, you don’t. This is definitely true with deck stains. You would think that the most expensive deck stains (some reaching $60+ per gallon) would be the longest lasting, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most high quality stains that actually last can be found for $50/gallon and under. In addition, some stain manufactures have 3-5 year warranty claims. In reality, this is just a marketing gimmick. No Stain will last 3-5 years on a horizontal surface. The idea is that they’ll sell more product because they have a warranty, and those increased sales will outweigh any warranty claims they have when their product fails to last.

2. Oil based stains are NOT, what they used to be

20 years ago, oil based stains were the best choice. They applied easily, had a decent lifespan, and were all around great products. With the VOC laws changing in the last 10-15 years, all oil-based stain manufactures have had to change their formulas. This has changed the game. Additionally, water-based stain technology has drastically improved so that now, many water-based stains outlast their oil based counterparts.

3. Don’t ignore the prep instructions

Most people think that simply using a pressure washer on their deck is sufficient. While this is an option, it’s not going to allow you to get maximum lifespan out of your deck stain. Using a wood cleaners & wood brighteners open up the pores of the wood so that maximum stain absorption can occur. This is what makes deck stain last. The deeper they soak in, the stronger their bond is with the wood. Now this is assuming that the wood stain is made with high quality resins that will actually soak in and bond in the first place. Using a cheap, poor quality deck stain that just lays on the surface isn’t going to do you much good, no matter how well you prep the surface.

The Best Deck Stains

Back in 2015-2016, we tested 30 different deck stains to see how well they preformed. To document our testing, we installed cameras over each board, and had it take 1 photo per day for a year. Here’s a list of the top performing products. Click on each product to view the time-lapse video results for each stain.

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